I am a Christian but an accidental member of CAN, in fact, i don’t subscribe to CAN even though my church does, and when Islamic banking begins, I will be one of its earliest callers. I have dwelt on this topic long enough to understand the rationale of CAN’s call for its abrogation, but I cannot see any sense in it. As I grew up to understand, the Christian Association of Nigeria came about with the sole purpose of uniting the Christian Faith, its differences, as well as help Christians in understanding their faith more deeply while encouraging peaceful coexistence. But be this as it may, the recent activities of the association, in my opinion, shows that it has deviated from its core purpose, into politics and beleaguering. My reasons are obvious. During the last elections, CAN elders coaxed their members into voting a Christian, not based on morals or justification of the religion, but based on sentimental bias and financial inducement. It is no news, that some can elders engaged in open confrontation with each other while sharing the inducement that were thrown at them during the April elections. A state of particular interest was Taraba State, where both main contestants were Christians, and CAN openly campaigned in churches and congregations for the incumbent governor, because the governor had “appealed for their mercies” whatever that means, and promised to make right what he had done wrong in the past if he is voted. I assume that the bounty was bigger at the national level.
Islamic Banking has been overtaken by semantics, where it simply means non-interest banking. I first came across it as “Halal banking” with HSBC as a student in the UK. It made sense to do business according to how one’s faith preaches. That is why we have Halal mutual funds, etc in the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Considering the nature of interests our Nigerian commercial banks charge their clients (24%), no sane businessman will borrow from a commercial bank which shows no interest in how you invest your money, how well your business is doing or how much profit you may make or lose. All they want is their capital with 24% interest at the stipulated time. Don’t forget that you will have to “see the managers” that approve the loan in the first place and God have mercy on you if you default. I am not sure if CAN is insinuating that this is the sort of banking that is appropriate for the Christian faith, considering that most churches who make these banks fat do not have their poor members benefitting from them. Across the nation, the congregation of the Christian faith doles out billions of naira every Sunday as “offerings, tithes and thanksgiving” hoping to God to replenish it in hundred folds. The banks take these monies and give it to a few businessmen who have strong ties with the Senior Pastors, Bishops and General overseers, to do business at the expense of their unsuspecting members. God knows how difficult it is to get an overdraft from a bank, if you are not government salaried worker. This, in my humble opinion, is really unfair, unjust and unconstitutional.
My question to CAN goes, should CAN focus on the spiritual growth of the Christian believer, or in the politics of a nation, or the economic well being of its followers? In each of the instances, CAN is not doing well at all. CAN consists of several platoons of a “righteous army” with each platoon commander giving different orders to his army. These members have nomenclatures that even the Merriam Webster Dictionary alone cannot translate, worse of all, they have so many different doctrines among them, so much so that someone like me wonders if we serve the same God with all CAN member churches. I don’t think the latter is correct considering that I cannot find what some churches do in my King James Version bible.
If CAN wants to help its followers, it should stop angling at the CBN governor Sanusi Lamido and either come up with a banking system that will favour it or encourage commercial banks to become more “Christian Friendly”. Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo was the Christian that initiated the Islamic Banking idea in Nigeria and I daresay he understands the intrigues of commercial banking coming from Anambra state where banking and money lending is very serious business. Is CAN casting a stone on him? Perhaps, CAN should champion a “Christian Banking System” too, rather than heat up the polity with non-issues and clamouring for government sponsored tourism called pilgrimage to Isreal and Italy. The bible I read, does not encourage lending at an interest, and if you do business for a profit, I am convinced it should not be beyond the 10% which God himself asked as tithes. CAN should concentrate on inter and intra religious faith issues, ask government to pay workers their minimum wages (for they will benefit more), seek economic answers to growing poverty, seek succour to the masses and leave politics alone. Let everyman’s conscience judge him.
I suspect the heads of our commercial banks are jittery about the introduction of this non-interest banking as serious business people will patronize them and they (commercial banks) will eventually lose out. I heard one of the commercial banks has indicated interest in this banking system and will apply for a license. To this bank, I give my thumbs up. We Christians must go beyond just listening to the voices of our preachers, to studying the scriptures and understanding what our bible says. We must imbibe the principles of our faith in our day to day business by being fair and sincere. No preacher can coax me into believing that it takes a Christian to do the right thing. If this is the case, the non-Christian Asian tigers wouldn’t have risen to their level of development and no “Christian nation” will be wallowing in abject poverty and corruption. CAN should focus on making the nation a better place by encouraging the payment of taxes dues to government, reducing waste (mostly constituted by retreat posters pasted across the nation) and encouraging morality.
God is not a fool for making this country as multi-religious as it is. Our strength is in our unity and we must accept to do the right thing in the face of clear and impending danger. Nigerians, the voice of the people is not necessarily the voice of God! It was for this reasons President Obasanjo once said “CAN my foot”!
Rufun Ibrahim Jauro
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